Asian Family Problems?

Asian family. No matter which part of this continent may it be, all of them have this very similar culture… you have to be a successful nurse, doctor, engineer or businessman to make your parents proud. You need to be able to land into a job from a well-known company. Oh, did I mention that you don’t have to be happy with your career for as long as your parents can boast to their friends about you? Unless you love your career, of course. Because if not, then you are a useless, waste of money, oh-they-wish-they’re-not-liable-of-you, living brat. 

Most people have been talking about the dark side of East Asian Families, now I’m here to talk about the Filipino version because it’s quite underrated, isn’t it?

As part of an Asian family, particularly here in the Philippines, you’re constantly stuck between doing what you love and doing what you have to do just to bring a legacy on your family’s name. You see, your neighbors can both be your best friend, given that Filipinos are known to be very hospitable, all for one and one for all, right? You help each other in times of need, you support each other financially and even with personal problems. Privacy between neighborhood isn’t really a thing here.

But because we’re all for one and one for all, they’re also the main source of gossip between what happens within each family in your subdivision. Your business got bankrupted? Your parents got divorced? One of their children is illegitimate or adopted? The family stopped attending the same church? Everyone knows about it. Not a single information is left behind, not unless you decided to keep that secret to yourself.

Speaking of having no privacy between friends and neighbors in a Filipino family, whenever there are family or religious community gatherings, all the children, including the most introverted ones are forced to move out from our rooms – also known as our caves to greet each of our visitors. Now here is the most dreadful part, the way they treat you depends on how your parents have been talking about you.

As a person who has social anxiety, I am hypersensitive of everything – from their gaze, the way they speak, their motion or movements, whether they look interested with me or not. I can even classify them into two different types:

  1. They’re interested in you, their eyes sparkle the moment they heard and recognize your name. They willingly offer their hand for a blessing also known as “Mano Po” and even ask questions about your current well-being.

    You’re either that child who graduated with flying colors, gold medals flashing here and there, or if you’re still a student, you’re probably studying in one of the top schools in the country or you must have been having top-notch grades in the latest examination or maybe you’re a Med or Law student. If you’re currently working, then you must be a professional – Doctor, Nurse, Engineer, Certified Public Accountant, Lawyer. If not, then you must be working in a very well-known company in Manila or Cebu or maybe you’re running a very successful business? All those bright lights and glamour, right? 

  2. They either haven’t heard much about you or your parents have been openly talking about their disappointments about you instead of talking it out with you first. Big Oof? Talking about messed up parent-children relationship slash parents blaming their children for being an unsuccessful brat without trying to face the mirror and looking out for their own mistakes first. Oh, you can clearly see those half-smiles and especially when they half-heartedly give out their hands for a blessing, sometimes you even have to forcibly ask for their hand with that piercing look or even worse, they would frankly ask you “Where is [insert name of more successful slash intelligent sibling]?” right at your face.

To tell you a short (maybe long) story, I’ve been through in both situations. I was #2, then I elevated to #1 then now I’m back to #2. The difference is, I have no regrets for switching back to #2. My two eldest siblings are obedient enough to make my parents proud, they didn’t have the chance to think or choose what they want to do in life because my parents basically maneuvered their path. My brother graduated with a business degree, a board passer, Certified Public Accountant and is now managing my father’s business. My sister is a registered nurse and is currently working overseas. My parents could never be more proud of them, and then there’s me. A course and a career shifter. I took up Engineering as my first choice, spent three years and apparently failed a lot of my subjects due to my extra-curricular activities. Everyone surrounding me knows that I am an artistically inclined person, except my family. It’s not because I’m trying to hide it from them, but because they’re too blinded to accept it. I thrive doing anything that is related to art, I have plenty of experiences performing on stage singing and dancing, I have successfully made my debut as a theater actress, auditioned and joined lots of workshops as well. I have taught myself to play piano, guitar, and drums. I have hidden files of produced and written songs on my computer. Sketching and doodling on my notebook while listening to the teacher in class has been my hobby ever since I was young… but none of those were acknowledged by my parents. They never even attended any of my performances because they think they are all nonsense. I could clearly remember when we went to a mall the other day and there were teenagers dancing on stage. I was greatly entertained so I wanted to stay at the event’s place for a while and my mom told me, “Isn’t this what you used to do? Weren’t you embarrassed?” and it hit me, she was embarrassed. No wonder they never came. 

Due to the multiple failed subjects in Engineering, I cried to my parents to give me another chance because I do not want to shift into a business course. I chose another course that is somehow closer to my heart next to art, computers. And so they allowed me to shift to Computer Science course under one condition: stop the singing, the dance and most of all, theater. It was that moment where I had no choice but to give up everything that made me happy just so I wouldn’t be like my siblings, being lead to a path where they’re not happy. My brother always told me to fight for what I truly want and what my heart desires, and so I did. But even so, It wasn’t art. I graduated successfully and worked for a huge and well-known company. Ever since then, I felt the privileges of being #1. My parents’ friends finally loved seeing me, I saw the sparkle in their eyes when they talk to me that I used to see when they talked to my sister or to my brother, but never to me, not until that moment. My parents kept boasting non-stop that their daughter worked and lived independently in Manila and in a huge company. I started to think that they might actually love the company even more than me.

But it was all glamour, indeed. Yes, I felt the bright side of #1 but it wasn’t enough to compensate its darkest side. I wasn’t happy. I always believed that I am an optimist and I will continue to stay being one, but I disappointed myself. I am no longer Miss Sunshine. I wasn’t happy with my job, I cried myself to sleep every night, I couldn’t find the optimist side in me, the girl who used to write positive and motivational blogs… I kept knocking into my inner soul but it wasn’t there, she’s dead. Being in that situation, in that job, in that place, I couldn’t see my future. I felt stuck, lonely, depressed… someone I never thought I would become. The person whom, most depressed people would lean onto, experienced the same position. Except, I had nobody to help lift me up. I was too afraid to talk it out with my friends because they wouldn’t believe me, they knew me as a positive person so I assumed they might think of it as me overreacting to everything. Whenever I talked to my mom, she would shrug off my concerns and will continuously say “No” whenever I told her that I must resign from that job. She would simply tell me, “You can do it” or in other words, suck it up. I may have made them proud and I may have those people’s admiration… but I’m not proud of myself. I am not happy. I felt like I was just living but I wasn’t exactly alive.

Until that one day, that bottle of patience and perseverance overflowed out of coping from all the sucking up. I was finally able to blow everything in one phone call. I finally cried my heart out and screamed to my mom, made sure that she could feel my deepest grief straight to the other line. “I can’t do this anymore.” I cried to my mom for the first time and it was only then she realized that I really couldn’t handle everything anymore, and she finally allowed me to resign.

Now, I’m back to being #2. I went back home to my province, I’ve been freelancing for almost a year now and have been continuously learning online courses about graphic design, motion graphics, illustration, etc. I started to draw once again and maybe sing and dance a little in my room from time to time. I have little to less to zero income, I’m not a board passer, I’m not a professional, I don’t work for a huge company anymore, my parents are not so happy about it and I’m back to being the child whom their friends almost refuse to offer their hands for a blessing and zero sparkles in their eyes… but I’m happy. My soul is filled with joy and nobody can take this away from me. I know some of you might say this is very impractical, but I’m starting out an online business soon with my designs and I have been constantly praying to God for his guidance and everything has been going well so far. 

Bottom line kids, never stray away from what your heart desires. Though also never forget to ask for God’s guidance with whatever decision you make.

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